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Presidential 2008 Elections

At War With God? Iran Accuses 5 Protestors of Warring Against God

Nazila Fathi reports that at least five of the protesters  arrested during the Ashura protests last week are being tried for the crime of “warring against God,” a crime that can ultimately lead to a death sentence. The severity and charge of the crime coming so soon after the protesters’ arrest demonstrates that the Islamic Republic is increasing efforts to bully protesters, hoping to (perhaps literally) kill the dispute over the June presidential election.

In a statement carried by IRNA, Iran’s official news agency, the judiciary said that the five would soon be tried by the revolutionary court on charges of “Moharebeh,” meaning waging war against God, which is punishable by death according to the penal code. The statement did not disclose the names of the defendants, when they would be tried or any details of accusations against them.

A representative of the supreme religious leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, characterized protesters during a speech at a pro-government rally last week as “followers of the path of Satan.”

The fact that the indictment was put together on the newly-expedited timelines cause for even more skepticism regarding the case.

  • 19 December 2008
  • Posted By Patrick Disney
  • Diplomacy, Nuclear file, Persian Gulf, Presidential 2008 Elections

Breaking: Obama to appoint special envoy to Iran

from the Washington Times:

EXCLUSIVE: Obama to create Iran outreach post
Friday, December 19, 2008
The incoming Obama administration plans to create a new position to coordinate outreach to Iran and is considering a number of senior career diplomats, State Department officials and Iran specialists say.

President-elect Barack Obama promised during his campaign to seek dialogue with Iran without preconditions in an effort to persuade Tehran to suspend its uranium enrichment program, but also has pledged to toughen sanctions.

A State Department official said the idea of naming a senior Iranian outreach coordinator was broached in the first transition meetings with Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, Mr. Obama’s choice for secretary of state, and her transition team earlier this month.

“The idea is that the position should build on the existing diplomatic framework,” the official said. He asked not to be named because a nominee has not been announced.

A spokeswoman for Mrs. Clinton declined to comment for this article. Brooke Anderson, a spokeswoman for the transition, also would not comment.

However, several Iran specialists said such a position was in the works.

“There is every indication that they are seriously considering going this way,” said Patrick Clawson, deputy director for research at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, a group that has warned of the dangers of Iranian proliferation.

Trita Parsi, president of the National Iranian American Council, an organization that supports U.S.-Iran dialogue, said that a special envoy position for Iran is planned.

  • 5 December 2008
  • Posted By Patrick Disney
  • Diplomacy, Presidential 2008 Elections

Constitution bars Hillary from serving as Secretary of State?

hillary-state1According to Article 1, Section 6 of the US Constitution, “No Senator or Representative shall, during the Time for which he was elected, be appointed to any civil Office under the Authority of the United States which shall have been created, or the Emoluments whereof shall have been increased during such time.”

That means that no member of Congress who voted to increase the salary of an appointed position can be appointed to that position.  Congress (and Senator Clinton) voted recently to increase the salary of the Secretary of State from$186,600 to $191,300.  Therefore, Hillary’s out, right?

Not necessarily…from the NYT Caucus blog:

In the past, Congress has gotten around this by passing a resolution cutting the salary for the office at stake back to what it was before the nominee’s most recent election… This became known as the “Saxbe fix,” after it was used to facilitate President Richard M. Nixon’s appointment of Senator William Saxbe of Ohio as attorney general.

So this has been dealt with before, and it probably will be again.  But it’s an interesting quandary for the new Obama cabinet to have to deal with…

Leaders on Iran in the 111th Congress: the Progressive Caucus

As 2009 rapidly approaches, look for the Congressional Progressive Caucus to become a more central player in the 111th Congress, particularly on Iran legislation.

The Progressive Caucus’ (CPC) position on Iran policy places a very high premium on shifting towards dialogue, rather than confrontation with Tehran. Arguing for the establishment of “a diplomatic dialogue with the Government of Iran as well as deepening relationships and cross-cultural exchanges with the Iranian people”, the CPC firmly believes that these efforts will ultimately “help foster greater understanding between the people of Iran and the people of the United States. These actions would also enhance the stability and security of the Persian Gulf region, including reducing the threat of the proliferation or use of nuclear weapons in the region, while advancing other United States foreign policy objectives in that region.”

When Opposites Attract…

While the newly elected President Obama has been bombarded with letters, messages and advice, a message from Al Qaeda’s second-in-command, Ayman al- Zawahiri has struck an unlikely harmony between the terrorist organization and neoconservatives in the US.

The terrorist leader’s statement included discriminatory remarks toward President-Elect Obama as well as a charge of America’s military defeat in Iraq and a possible Iranian/US dialogue that would include bilateral cooperation over Afghanistan.

The slurs used toward the President-Elect, whether racial or religious, are discriminatory and disgraceful, and will likely prove counterproductive for the terrorist group, given the not only national but global enthusiasm over Barack Obama’s victory.

Rice: Interests section plan put on hold

Over the Thanksgiving holiday, Secretary of State Rice announced that the plan to open a US diplomatic interests section in Iran has been shelved.  According to her statement, the option for a diplomatic outpost is still available, but that the decision should be made by the next administration.

Secretary Rice listed the short amount of time remaining in Bush’s term, along with developments such as the Russia’s incursion into Georgia, as reasons for the decision.

Obviously, we at NIAC and many Americans wishing for a brighter future of US-Iran relations are disappointed in the decision.  We had hoped that a decision to send US diplomats to Iran in the final days of the Bush administration would be the perfect stepping stone to a more ambitious diplomatic agenda under President-elect Obama.

Obama administration to engage Iran on Afghanistan

The Washington Post reported yesterday that the Obama administration will look to Iran for assistance in Afghanistan. Obama strategists have said that the idea is to have Iran as an interlocutor rather than another element which impedes progress. Iran’s record in Afghanistan can be seen as a both a positive force for change– aiding US troops against insurgents and helping to overthrow the Taliban–and an obstacle to progress by funding the insurgents.

The incoming administration cites many reasons as to why Iran and the US can be on the same page about Afghanistan, not the least of which is that neither the US nor Iran “want Sunni extremists in charge of Afghanistan.” Additionally, the growing violence threatens not only the US’ continued objective of supporting a relative democracy but also the stability of surrounding states.

Reverse-engineering an Obama deal with Iran

If all the hype about the incoming Obama administration is to be believed, prospects for a deal between the US and Iran on the nuclear issue have never been brighter.  So imagine for a moment that we’re already a year into an Obama presidency, and the White House has just recently issued a proud statement that it has just negotiated a deal with Iran over its nuclear program, and talks are underway at Camp David to finalize the agreement. How did this come about? 

Let’s re-trace our steps, from that historic day a little over a year from now all the way back to today, and see just what it took to get us there…

Israel, Iran and Obama: the region reacts to U.S. election

The Iranian reaction to the election of Barack Obama as the next President of the United States seems to be overall positive so far, with MP’s such as Hamid Reza Haji Babai welcoming the victory “as an opportunity and test, with Iran now waiting for that change”. Government spokesman Gholam Hossein Elham, Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki, and President Ahmadinejad similarly echoed a hope for change in the direction of U.S. foreign policy. While Elham stated that “Iran hopes Obama changes America’s international image and avoids invading foreign countries.” Mottaki argued that “the election of Barack Obama… is a clear sign of the American people’s wish and desire for fundamental changes in America’s domestic and foreign policies.” Ahmadinejad issued a brief congratulatory note to Obama on his website; the first time an Iranian President has extended such a congratulatory letter to an American President in thirty years.

The reaction from Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khameni was however more reserved. Ali Aghamohammadi, a close aide to Khamenei, said in a Reuters interview that a “change of political figures is not important by itself. What is more important is a change of American policy.” Simultaneously, the Iranian Armed Forces (which is under the Executive Command of the Supreme Leader) issued a stark warning to U.S. forces in Iraq that Tehran “would respond to any violation of Iranian airspace, a message analysts said seemed directed at the new U.S. president-elect more than neighboring American troops”

Meanwhile, Tel Aviv expressed nervousness about Obama’s plans for the Middle East. Having sent several “high-level messages to Washington in which it expressed its objections to the [Bush Administration’s] proposal to open an interests sections [in Tehran],” Israeli Foreign Minister (and Prime Minister candidate) Tzipi Livni said Thursday that “Obama shouldn’t talk to Iran just yet, warning that such dialogue could project weakness.” One should perhaps view Obama’s nomination of Rahm Emanuel – a high-ranking Democrat that flew to Israel to volunteer with the Israeli army in 1991 – as his Chief of Staff, as a maneuver aimed at calming Tel Aviv..

Iranian Americans play active role in 2008 election, a US State Department publication for international audiences, published this report on the unprecedented level of Iranian-American involvement in the current election, including interviews with NIAC, PAAIA, IABA, and others. 

From’s Beverly O’Neal:

Los Angeles — Iranian Americans are well-integrated into their communities and are eager to have their voices heard in the 2008 presidential election, according to several Iranian-American organizations.

“Whether it’s volunteering for a campaign, leading fundraising efforts, organizing voter registration drives or get-out-the-vote efforts, Iranian Americans are in the thick of things in this election like never before,” Patrick Disney, assistant legislative director of the Washington-based National Iranian American Council (NIAC), told

Full article below the fold…